India-Qatar Diplomatic Spat: Balancing Energy Security and Trade Dependency

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October 31, 2023

India-Qatar Diplomatic Spat: Balancing Energy Security and Trade Dependency

Diplomatic isolation of Qatar: While choosing sides, India should put its  national interests first


  • The recent imposition of death sentences on eight former Indian Navy personnel by a Qatari court has thrust a shadow over the historically cordial relations between India and Qatar. At the core of this bilateral relationship lies a significant trade imbalance, heavily weighted in Qatar’s favor, driven primarily by imports. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) plays a central role in this dynamic, constituting nearly half of India’s imports by value from Qatar. This article delves into the intricacies of this situation, exploring the critical link between energy security, trade dynamics, and diplomatic challenges.

LNG Dependency and Diplomacy

Trade Imbalance and Leverage

  • Qatar’s considerable advantage in the trade relationship stems from an imbalance that tilts heavily towards imports from Qatar, dwarfing India’s exports. This skewed trade dynamic endows Qatar with substantial leverage in bilateral discussions and negotiations.

LNG Dominance and Energy Security

  • LNG holds a pivotal position, accounting for approximately 50% of India’s imports by value from Qatar. Given India’s burgeoning appetite for natural gas and the imperative to enhance energy security, this dependency on LNG is expected to persist, even amid potential upswings in domestic production.

Need for India’s Energy Transition

Embracing Cleaner Alternatives

  • Natural gas emerges as a cleaner and more cost-effective substitute for conventional petroleum fuels. This aligns seamlessly with India’s steadfast commitment to reducing carbon emissions and transitioning towards more sustainable energy sources.

Bolstering Energy Security

  • Given India’s substantial reliance on imported crude oil, natural gas stands as a crucial component in fortifying the nation’s energy security. This vital resource acts as a buffer against external supply disruptions.

Ambitious Targets and Increased Imports

  • India has set ambitious goals to elevate the share of natural gas in its primary energy mix to 15% by 2030. This objective is poised to catalyze a surge in LNG imports in the foreseeable future.

Sensitivity of the Present Situation

Navigating Diplomatic Waters

  • The predicament of the retired Navy personnel presents a diplomatic tightrope for India. Striking a delicate balance between asserting its energy security concerns and maintaining amicable relations with Qatar is paramount.

Trade Dependency and Delicate Relations

  • India’s energy security hinges on Qatar, rendering diplomatic ties particularly sensitive. Any disruptions in this relationship could potentially reverberate across India’s energy landscape.

Trade Figures and Global LNG Dynamics

Import-Export Disparities

  • In FY2022-23, India’s imports from Qatar totaled $16.81 billion, with LNG constituting a staggering 49.5% at $8.32 billion. In stark contrast, India’s exports to Qatar amounted to a mere $1.97 billion during the same period.

Global LNG Landscape

  • Recent geopolitical upheavals, such as Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, have transformed the global LNG market into a seller’s domain. This shift has highlighted the stability offered by long-term contracts compared to spot purchases, a facet crucial in times of supply gluts or shortages.

Qatar’s Commanding Position

  • As the world’s leading LNG exporter, Qatar holds significant sway and stability in the LNG market. Importers worldwide, including India, are actively seeking enduring contracts with major suppliers like Qatar to ensure a dependable supply.

Future Prospects for India

Negotiating Long-Term Contracts

  • India is currently engrossed in negotiations for long-term LNG contracts, especially since Petronet’s existing agreement with Qatar is slated to expire in 2028. This underlines India’s determination to secure steady energy supplies.

Anticipating a Shift in Market Dynamics

  • Industry experts prognosticate a possible transition to a buyer’s market in the global LNG arena in the coming years, spurred by new LNG export projects. In this evolving landscape, Qatar is poised to retain its pivotal role.


  • In the intricate interplay between energy security imperatives, diplomatic intricacies, and trade dependency, India faces a formidable challenge. The pursuit of long-term LNG contracts reflects India’s resolute commitment to securing stable energy supplies while treading diplomatically on the international stage. The ever-evolving dynamics of the global LNG market will continue to shape India’s energy choices and diplomatic strategies.

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India-Qatar Diplomatic Spat: Balancing Energy Security and Trade Dependency | Vaid ICS Institute